USDA, states work to make sure food stamps are issued

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday a plan that will provide full benefits for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, often referred to as food stamps, for the month of February if the government shut down, now in its third week, continues.

According to a news release, the department is working with states to issue February benefits earlier than usual, relying on a provision of the last Continuing Resolution, which expired Dec. 21, that provides an appropriation for programs such as SNAP and child nutrition to incur costs of operation within 30 days of the resolution’s expiration.

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States will have until Jan. 20 to request and implement the early issuance. Once those issuances are made, the February benefits will be made available to SNAP participants.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in the news release that his department wants to “assure states, and SNAP recipients, that the benefits for February will be provided.”

When the department’s funding expired Dec. 21, SNAP benefits for January were fully funded and states have been distributing those funds to recipients. But since the shutdown began, the USDA has been reviewing options available for funding February benefits without additional funding from Congress.

According to the news release, other nutrition assistance programs also will have sufficient funding to continue operations in February.

Child nutrition programs, including school meals and after-school programs, have funding to continue operations through March.

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The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), has prior year funding the USDA will begin to provide states with this week to go toward February benefits.

Other Food and Nutrition Services programs can continue to use grant funding provided prior to the government shutdown and commodity deliveries to those programs will continue.